The author of the New York Times bestselling “Dinotopia” book series covers his story with Sellfy
James Gurney is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series. He designed the World of Dinosaurs stamps for the U.S. Postal Service and has worked on over a dozen assignments for National Geographic magazine. Gurney is the author of the popular blog “Gurney Journey” and the bestselling books “Color and Light” and “ Imaginative Realism.” He teaches drawing and painting to over 79,000 people on his Youtube channel, and he is keen to share his experience in selling digital arts.
Back in 2013, you introduced your followers to the James Gurney YouTube Channel. Why did you choose this medium as one of your channels?
I had been doing videos for a few years already, and it was just becoming possible for an artist to make and distribute videos about their work to the wider public and to serious painters, who are using videos to help them on their journey of learning to paint.
I’m grateful to companies like Sellfy for making it possible for me to reach those people directly. It truly is a community of people searching together.
In your videos, you take people outside to paint flowers in gardens, street scenes, and nature. Usually, artists paint indoors, how did you choose to make videos in such lively environment?
I love the challenge of documenting a painting as it’s being made. Making the video and digging into my thought process is almost another art form for me. I like painting and filming outdoors rather than in the studio because the whole experience is more chaotic and unpredictable — which makes the resulting video far more compelling because of the element of risk and surprise…
What is the working process behind your video tutorials?
I bring a couple of extra cameras and tripods, and I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish so that I can shoot to the edit. I bring a shot list to jog my memory about getting the kinds of shots I need. When I get back, I edit the material myself, usually making a comprehensive master version for Sellfy and shorter educational teasers for YouTube and Instagram.
You also have made few collaborations with other YouTubers. Might you share your thoughts on your experience?
My friend Stan Prokopenko asked to do a collab, and we discussed some options. We were considering painting people live outdoors, like volleyball players at the beach or something, but we ended up painting at a historic “Old Town” area in San Diego. The first half of our time painting turned out to be a bomb, though, because we got kicked out of an area of the park that was closing. He got that moment on video, but I failed to.
It’s always your most disastrous moment that you want to capture on video; that’s what people remember.
How do you fix it, if you have forgotten tools back home when arriving at the location for your next painting?
I usually forget a tool or a material when I paint. One time I was painting a white church, and I forgot to pack the white paint. So I had to go into town and buy a tube at the art store. Another time I forgot a palette knife, so I used a plastic spoon that I found in the gutter.
You make a portion of your income from your painting tutorials. What are your tips for selling digital products?
I think it’s important to think all the time about what makes a better product that really helps other artists on their journey. When my wife Jeanette (also an artist) and I watch other videos, we always talk about what we liked about it and how it might have been better.
I really try to listen to what customers want, and I study the metrics. With all that said, I go out there to have fun and try new challenges, and it’s OK with me if some of my videos have a smaller audience.
That’s one thing I like about the digital arts economy is that you can niche market to specific groups, and they can get information that used to be unavailable a generation ago.
Last year you launched the new Living Sketchbook Vol. 2. How did you decided on new technology and exposing your works in an App format?
The idea of creating a sketchbook app that is a magic window into an experience of the world is a dream that’s still in formation. I was lucky in that my son Dan Gurney has become an app developer and he wanted to take on the challenge of combining scalable artwork with audio and video in an app for a tablet or phone. The version we offer on Sellfy is a “PDF+” version just for people who don’t have Apple or Android mobile devices.
What would be your advice to artists in digital arts who want to sell their tutorials?
On the production end, as you start off, be sure to think about what would make a digital product most valuable to you. What kind of product would you want if you were learning the skill that you have mastered?
Then back-engineer the process to figure out how to deliver that in digital form. Take advantage of the ability to embed YouTube video trailers and marketing images in your product description, and keep supporting your product after you release it.
Sellfy offers useful tools for any visual artist, digital or traditional, who wants to market their tutorials. You can sell any kind of digital product, not just video files, but also images, digital books, PDFs, or audio files.
P.S. Explore James’ Sellfy store and his official website.
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